I would suggest that one of the best ways to change a child’s perspective is to take them on a missions trip to Mexico or Haiti, to see children who live without all the luxuries and who appreciate the most simple gifts. However, this can be expensive and there are a lot of unpredictable variables – weather, sickness, transportation – to name a few.
But there is an effective and affordable way to change your child’s perspective, not only on consumerism but in realizing they can make a significant difference in another child’s life through Operation Christmas Child (OCC) a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. OCC encourages people to give the simple gift of a shoebox stuffed with school supplies, toiletries, toys and candy for a boy or a girl between the ages of 2 and 14. Operation Christmas Child has distributed more than 200,000,000 shoe boxes to children in over 100 war-torn, impoverished and/or natural disaster hit countries over the last 22 years, bringing the message of love, hope and joy not only with the gifts but in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The cool thing is that your children can be involved from a very early age. Let me suggest a few ways to make this happen in your home. First, watch a video about OCC with your child. There are many to choose from but you may want to start with this video that gives you a great overview of the ministry of OCC. Once you see this video, you and your child will be hooked! It’s exciting to see how much joy we can bring to another child! You may want to watch some of the other videos right then but you may want to come back and watch a video once a week. Then have your child decide if they want to pack their box for a boy or a girl. Next, pick an age group, 2 – 4 year old, 5 – 9 year old, or 10 – 14 year old. Often children want to pick someone of the same gender and age making it easier to think what that child might enjoy.
Then go shopping! Often you will find that your child will be very generous and will want to buy quite a bit for the child they have in mind. Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a shoebox along so your child realizes the restraints of space, or you could decide to pack more than one box. As you shop you can educate your child on the importance of things that they take for granted – soap, toothpaste, a comb – and point out that not all children have even these basic things.
When you pack your box encourage your child to write a letter to the child receiving the box and include a picture. Children who receive the boxes treasure these personal touches. Then include a check for $7 to cover the shipping – much cheaper than a missions trip! Or you can pay on line and get a tracking label so you know in which country your box is distributed.
Relay Centers are open the third week of November to receive your box. You can check on the OCC website to find a Relay Center near you.
But if you don’t want to wait until November you can Build A Box on line. Again, your child gets to pick the age and gender of the child. Then they are given a choice of gifts to put in the box. With each choice they get a short story how a similar gift impacted a child’s life, and expanding their understanding of others and an appreciation for the life with which they’ve been blessed. The total cost for a Build A Box is $25 – again, much cheaper than a missions trip. Many of these boxes are delivered to “sensitive countries” where the Good News of Jesus Christ isn’t often heard.
I encourage you and your child to pray. Pray as you choose to pack a box. Pray as you shop. Pray as you pack. Pray as you drop it off. And then pray some more. Imagine what life might be for the child on the receiving end. Picture each item packed and pray that it will bring the child joy. If you find out in which country your box was delivered, learn about that country and pray some more.
One word on unrealistic expectations: you may hear back from your child, but probably not. If they have a piece of paper it will be used for school. They may not know how to write. They may not have access to a post office. Suffice it to know that your box has brought great joy into a child’s life.
An Operation Christmas Child shoebox doesn’t only change the life of the child receiving the box but it changes the heart of the one who sends it as well.